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Life in the extreme

Cold seeps are deep-sea environments, usually a few square meters in size, where fluid is released through slow diffusion from the sea floor. Mud volcanoes which are active areas of fluid seepage, are other extreme environments discovered in the 1990s. These harsh conditions give rise to some of the most extreme and scientifically challenging environments for life to exist on the planet.

Extensive fields of hydrocarbon-rich gas seepage, mud volcanoes and pockmarks have all been mapped by the EUROCORES programme EUROMARGINS. On 4 - 6 October 2006, scientists from 50 different research groups in 12 different countries came together in Bologna, Italy to discuss future cross-discipline, pan-European and pan-World research following in the footsteps of this four year programme as EUROMARGINS is coming to an end.

Collaboration in the 'cold' As ocean sediments compact in cold seeps, fluids ooze out of the sediment and into the water. The cold-seep fluids contain chemical compounds produced by the decomposition of organic materials or by inorganic chemical reactions which occur at high temperatures and pressures.

Near cold seeps in the Eastern Mediterranean, Sébastien Duperron from Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France has found unique bacterial symbiosis with mussels. Symbiotic associations between bivalves (mussels) and bacteria allow the former to benefit from the bacteria's ability to chemosynthetically (without light) derive energy from the chemical compounds produced and use this energy to ensure primary production.

"In the bivalve species Idas sp., we have found an association with six different symbionts. This is the widest diversity of symbionts ever described in a bivalve species," said Duperron.

This means that the mussel, depending on which type of symbionts it carries, can derive its energy from either sulphide or methane. In addition, Duperron has also found that in the Idas sp., three of the symbionts be
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Source:European Science Foundation


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